The apparent and the hidden

brasilobserver - Mar 18 2015
In 2012, the current Prime Minister of Greece, Alex Tsipras visited Brazil and met the former President Lula

(Leia em Português)

What do the current governments of Brazil and Greece have in common? And who is interested in destabilising them?


By Vassiliki Constantinidou*

Although it may seem strange, I’ll tell you about a recent dream. I was walking in a crowded street: people coming and going immersed in their thoughts, certainties and doubts. The day was clear and the sun shining. But gradually, a grey cloud took over the sky, capping sunlight, although it was possible to see luminosities around it.

This picture illustrates the moment we are living since the crisis of 2008. When my thoughts fly to Greece, I know that people are seeing the rays and light the shadows try to hide. It is the light of hope that they see. Here in Brazil, we see the same sun, but what people look are the shadows ahead. Shadows of an economic elite boiling hatred against a party and a president, as it does not accept losing its privileges.

Apparently, the two countries are treading opposite paths. Greece is negotiating with the European Union the way out of the economic depression. Brazil, which until last year avoided the crisis, maintaining good levels of income and employment, is performing some adjustments, which in fact are austerity measures. Leave the economic intricacies to the experts. The leaders of the two countries now face an uphill battle in the economic and social field, but also live a very delicate political moment. Only popular support could provide stability to their actions.

I have followed and lived the trajectory of these two countries that are part of my life story. In Greece are my ancestral roots; in Brazil, the land that formed and welcomed my immigrant parents and me. How could can such different countries from an economic and historic point of view have something in common?

Let’s remember that the two governments were elected democratically in a tight race between conservative and progressive forces. I was in Greece last year, before the elections. The results of the elections confirmed the climate of simply unsustainable situations that ran through squares, homes and streets of Athens. The victory of Syriza opened new possibilities to modify the depression table facing the country, caused by the economic crisis that began in 2008. It is also an encouragement to the European countries experiencing the same situation. To assist the government in its endeavour, there are the popular support and the majority of Congress.

The re-election of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil was a clear response to the need of increasing social achievements that the PT (Workers Party) government and its allies developed since 2002, when Lula was elected. This translates into social inclusion programs that serve as an example for all developing countries. It is also a sign of the urgency of policy and tax reforms to the country following the growth track. However, the intensification of conservative and progressive forces during the elections and the election of a conservative Congress hinders the achievement of these goals.

In 2012, Alexis Tsipras and some of the Syriza members were in Brazil and other countries in South America. I attended a meeting with him, organized by the Greek community in Brazil. There were a number of other meetings with representatives of various parties, one of them in the Lula Institute, with the former president. Tsipras and his party wanted to know the alternatives adopted by Brazil to maintain the level of growth despite the crisis.

At the time, in an informal conversation, Lula explained that the Brazilian economy was structured and conjectural conditions allowed, even in the crisis, raised the minimum wage, maintaining the level of income and wages, not to fall into recession. Humbly, Lula said it was Brazil that should ask for alternatives to Europe on the issue of social welfare, because we were at least 30 years late on this issue.

What do these two leaders have in common? Probably it is the rescue of the dignity of their people. In Greece, Tsipras election rescued the Greek dignity that during these years of depression was stifled by economic power, which led the population to a hopeless situation, humiliation and suffering. Lula, for the sociologist Emir Sader, “was the one who rescued the dignity of the Brazilian people, its poorest, particularly in the northeast. He recognized their rights, developed policies that favoured their living conditions and a spectacular recovery of the economy, social conditions and educational system in the northeast”.

Watching from a distance or experiencing the day-to-day, it is perceived in both countries a movement, powered by the right-wing thinking on policy, business and religious factions, to destabilise the government. In Greece, the media tries to disqualify Alexis Tsipras and his party holding up the bail-out. They worry more about the lack of tie than with the results of negotiations with the European Union.

In Brazil, the major news corporations spread hatred, manipulating and omitting information. The garbage that is being taken under the carpet, with accusations of corruption in various segments of Brazilian society, is bringing up a state structure in the service of the privileged classes (business and political). And that is only being possible because there is a democratic government with political will to modify the existing structures, in defence of the most vulnerable. This is something unforgivable to the Brazilian elites.

The desire for justice and to improve the conditions of the disadvantaged may be the common point between Tsipras and Rousseff. Although from different backgrounds, in this world where economic power calls the shots, shadows investing in the destabilization of the two governments are the same. It is known that each new crisis of capitalism, someone has to pay the bill.

Usually the onus is on the poorer classes of society. And it is against this practice that the two fights taking into account the reality, peculiarities and characteristics of their countries.

Our daily life is populated with certainty without knowledge, without memory; handling and nonconformity of conservative forces that lost the elections; a hegemonic journalism committed to the ruling classes, failing on historical information. We are losing track of each other, tolerance and diversity. There is an on-going “evil coarseness” as wrote Eliane Brum in his column in El País.

This fight may be swimming against the current, as many say that “the world is like that” to justify inequalities and perpetuate privileges. The polls of the two countries have shown the will to build a more just, fraternal and democratic world. If we really live in a democracy, it needs to be respected.


*Vassiliki Constantinidou is a journalist and wrote a book, in Portuguese, on the story of Greek immigrants in Brazil